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With plasma TVs, you get more for less

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By Don Lindich
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Published:
Q: If plasma TVs provide superior viewing quality, why are they consistently $300-$500 less expensive than LED-LCD TVs of similar size and brand names? That doesn't make sense.
A: Plasma is less expensive to manufacture in larger screen sizes, which is where you find plasma since they typically start around 42-inches. I know it seems paradoxical that plasma is better than LED-LCD as well as less expensive, but that's simply the way it is. If you do some research beyond my column you will see that the opinion "plasma is the best" is near universal among home theater buffs and in home theater magazines. Even Consumer Reports is on the plasma bandwagon, especially for 3D HDTVs.
Not many companies stuck with plasma to master the technology the way Panasonic, Samsung and LG have. It's a bit of a shame because modern plasma is so very good. Part of plasma technology is actually rather mature. Plasma uses phosphors to create the image, just like our old CRT tube TVs. The phosphors emit light themselves, which provides a wide viewing angle and create very accurate color and contrast. Once you are used to plasma many LCD and LED-LCD sets can look kind of cartoonish and artificial.
A recent experience reminded me how far along HDTV has come, and how quickly. A few months ago I upgraded to a 55-inch Panasonic ST50 plasma in my bedroom. Soon after it was installed I realized that my first HDTV was also a 55-inch, a Mitsubishi WS-55859 projection set. I purchased it in 2002 for $4,600. It weighed 300 pounds and had to be wheeled around on the casters on the bottom of the cabinet, I looked at my 55-inch ST50 and marveled at how far we have come in 10 years. The ST50 can be purchased for under $1,300, weighs less than 100 pounds, has 3D and wireless Internet, and is light enough that two people can pick it up.

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